By Matt Trapani and Alex Zdan
A new controversy is developing in Manville just weeks ahead of the second anniversary of Tropical Storm Ida – a storm that greatly impacted the town.
Residents in some low-lying areas are now being told they can’t use federal money to repair or elevate their homes. The situation has left dozens with a choice – either move or pay out of their own pockets.
This situation affects 79 homes – many of them located in the Lost Valley section of Manville.
Mayor Richard Onderko says that the residents were blindsided by the sudden change. Gov. Phil Murphy’s office acknowledged that homeowners were officially notified last week, but also says that the town was told last month. The office says that Manville itself designated the areas five years ago.
“We alerted homeowners just about a week ago to let them know, ‘Hey, certain homes are designated it’s a buyout home. Elevating there is still keeping you in harm’s way. Your option is a buyout,’” says Dan Kelly, executive director of the governor’s Disaster Recovery Office.
But Onderko says this isn’t good enough.
“I think they pulled the rug out of the hopes and dreams of someone saying, ‘I want to live here, and I want to make my home storm-resilient.’ And now they get no funding,” the mayor says.
Manville suffered devastating floods in 1999, 2011, and 2021.
The governor’s office says the policy change comes because even if these homes in the designated areas were elevated, it would still pose a risk for first responders to rescue people who would be stranded in instances of severe flooding. They say the student comes from the state Office of Emergency Management.
Onderko says most stormwater in Manville dissipates after 24 hours. He says he believes the people should be allowed to elevate their homes and wants to work with the state to finetune the map.
If homeowners choose to decline a buyout, they will not be forced to leave. It will just mean that residents will have to pay for any repairs, including elevation, out of their own pockets.